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GCHQ Intercepted Webcam Images of Millions of Yahoo Users 137

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the in-case-any-of-them-run-for-office dept.
An anonymous reader writes with more chilling news from the Snowden files. Quoting the Guardian: "GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. ... The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs." Remember, friends don't video conference with friends unless they're using SIP and TLS.
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GCHQ Intercepted Webcam Images of Millions of Yahoo Users

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  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:45PM (#46360519) Homepage

    How many fingers am I holding up now?

  • Blackmail pool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BSAtHome (455370) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:47PM (#46360539)

    Unfortunately, now they have a very nice pool of information/images to blackmail the persons(s) displayed. What a treasure that must be for the agencies. How better control the populous than dirty tricks.

    Maybe we should start collecting the like info on the agencies?

    • Re:Blackmail pool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:58PM (#46360701)

      Doesn't matter. I bet gchq and NSA are super stoked about google glass.

    • Re:Blackmail pool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:59PM (#46360727) Journal
      There will be one potential issue: Did they score some sweet, sweet, incriminating footage of Inconvenient Politician confessing his love of grits wrasslin' and anal twincest? Yeah, probably. However, it doesn't take a PhD in teenagerology to suspect that Her Majesty's Wiretapping Crew are now sitting on one of the largest collections of illegal kiddie porn on the planet. And the kiddies are, on the whole, the unsuspecting children of the taxpayers of the UK. If the British tabloid press is anything to go by, they like (non clerical) pedos even less than we do on this side of the pond.

      As much fun as it will be to...encourage...an MP or two to take a more understanding position (just like somebody other than his wife did, and we have pictures, hint hint), I wouldn't really want to be on the receiving end of the entire population of the UK suspecting that I'm hoarding kiddie porn based on their children. If the black-bag crew are really unlucky, whatever 'license to do whatever the fuck you want, because terroristsOMG!!!' law(s) and set of interpretations may not even have considered an idea this audacious. As much as Clapper is a lying fuckwad, his 'Oh, mere metadata' driven sounds convincing, if you don't know what metadata are, or how useful they are. "Yup, hot, definitely not yet legal, naked pictures of your innocent children", by contrast, isn't even good PR, no matter how you spin it.
      • by oodaloop (1229816)
        They almost certainly did think of that, and they almost certainly have a waiver that allows them to retain that data. I am not familiar with this program, but I am familiar with others. (IAA Intelligence Analyst)
        • My suggestion: http://www.phibetaiota.net/201... [phibetaiota.net]
          "The greatest threat facing the USA is the irony inherent in our current defense posture, like for example planning to use nuclear energy embodied in missiles to fight over oil fields that nuclear energy could replace. This irony arises in part because the USA's current security logic is still based on essentially 19th century and earlier (second millennium) thinking that becomes inappropriate applied to 21st century (third millennium) technological threats an

        • ...and with that, gchq found that even more paedophiles began applying to work for them...and yes, they all could work late and on weekends and holidays...

      • Good comment.
        Here's a thing I'll let you in on;
        two pieces of data: 2017 and Schism.
        Spread the meme.
    • How better control the populous

      Adjective found, related noun missing. Bailing out near line 7.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder what the sticky side of electrical tape looks like?
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I wonder how well facial recognition works on wank face.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Well, your eyes are still at the same position in your head (even if crossed), your cheek bones haven't moved, the bridge of your nose and placement of your ears hasn't changed ...

        I seriously doubt your O-face makes a huge difference in facial recognition.

    • I hope they got mine! I wonder what the sticky side of electrical tape looks like?

      Your aim is impressive sir.

      oh.

      You meant the back.

  • by number17 (952777) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:48PM (#46360551)
    They first tried this experiment with Chatroulette only to find that the facial recognition software didn't work with cam pointed below the waist.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      They first tried this experiment with Chatroulette only to find that the facial recognition software didn't work with cam pointed below the waist.

      It did, however, create the new discipline of schmeckle recognition, which shows long-term promise in some areas.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It did, however, create the new discipline of schmeckle recognition, which shows long-term promise in some areas.

        If they're getting their training corpus from chatroulette they'd better plan for short-term promise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The truth is even funnier.

      The document estimates that between 3% and 11% of the Yahoo webcam imagery harvested by GCHQ contains "undesirable nudity". Discussing efforts to make the interface "safer to use", it noted that current "naïve" pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people's faces as pornography.

      The porn filter filtered out the faces, which was exactly what they wanted to capture. Brilliant

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They first tried this experiment with Chatroulette only to find that the facial recognition software didn't work with cam pointed below the waist.

      Hey, you may just have given me my next company idea.

      I'm sure I can sell CRS (Crotchal Recognition Software) to the intelligence agencies...

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:05PM (#46361449)

      No, their software kept getting confused from Batman [youtube.com].

      (I promise, SFW, not a rickroll, etc. Just a guy with a Batman costume blowing some minds on CR.)

    • True, but some positives did arise from it. Long time Chatrouletter Rich "Tripod" Benson did find romance leading to marriage. Coincidentilly to an NSA'er.
  • by zerosomething (1353609) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:50PM (#46360587) Homepage
    How is it that the home country of the author of 1984 just doesn't get it? How is it they are letting this kind of thing go on? It's truly amazing and sad!
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:08PM (#46360857) Homepage

      How is it that the home country of the author of 1984 just doesn't get it?

      They've been treating it as a manual, instead of as a warning.

    • This isn't like 1984. They had much bigger TV's. The small ones are like our current big TV.

      • You realized why they are going to 4k?
        Pixel density of massive screens. At 3 ft away I can see the inidividual dots on my 55". My finger tip would barely cover the pixel of a widescreen that covered my livingroom wall.
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:11PM (#46360887)

      How is it that the home country of the author of 1984 just doesn't get it?

      Plenty of us get it. Please remember that at no point did the general population of the UK ask for, support or condone this kind of behaviour, nor most of the other dubious things we've been hearing about lately that have supposedly been done in our name or for our protection.

      Also, the previous administration went from being elected on a technicality with a heavy majority of the population not supporting them to having a leader who everyone was promised at the election wouldn't take over if they voted for the party in question. And obviously nobody directly elected the current coalition administration, which doesn't even seem to be able to honour what it said it would do in the coalition agreement upon which it was founded consistently, never mind what was in the manifestos of the two constituent parties that people actually voted for.

      The last time we actually had anything resembling a government with a mandate in this country was nearly a decade ago, and they were the guys who then went to war, despite literally millions of people marching in the street to protest the decision, based on little more than trumped up rhetoric that proved to be every bit as made up as most of us always assumed it was.

      How is it they are letting this kind of thing go on?

      We demonstrably don't live in an effectively functioning democracy, by any credible definition of the term. Unfortunately, the political class have got very good at playing the game by the rules that currently exist and go to great lengths to avoid allowing those rules to change. Short of actually bringing down the government and replacing the system, hopefully in a non-violent way, this seems unlikely to change any time soon.

      As long as we have that limited system, a handful of big issues will inevitably dominate the one vote we get every five years or so, and there are way too many people who are (reasonably enough) more concerned with things like not having their homes flooded or whether they can get their kids into a good school or whether the grandparents will get proper treatment if they have to go into hospital for those of us who also consider points of principle when voting to have a significant impact.

      • How is it that the home country of the author of 1984 just doesn't get it?

        Plenty of us get it. Please remember that at no point did the general population of the UK ask for, support or condone this kind of behaviour, nor most of the other dubious things we've been hearing about lately that have supposedly been done in our name or for our protection.

        Unfortunately most of you/us did vote for the "political class", unless you just didn't vote and that's worse. Way too many people think their large political party of choice is going to "give them their fair share", or will make things "more equal" for this or that class. The "political class" of your major party will always make it "more equal" for the pigs, so stop perpetuating the party that want's to make things "more fair".

      • You write: "Short of actually bringing down the government and replacing the system, hopefully in a non-violent way, this seems unlikely to change any time soon." Looks to me like the Arab/Ukraine/Etc Spring has shown that _bringing down a government_ is almost a guarantee that what replaces it will be nondemocratic.
      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Plenty of us get it. Please remember that at no point did the general population of the UK ask for, support or condone this kind of behaviour, nor most of the other dubious things we've been hearing about lately that have supposedly been done in our name or for our protection.

        Really? Seems that large segments of the population there voted for the madness in this case, and with that they also voted for the madness of their local councils to do crazy shit. And they've also been remarkably silent on well pretty much everything, but that's a big swath of your media helping on that. After all, if you support a euroseptic party, you're automatically a racist, bigot and a hate monger.

        You know, much like how the media in the US paints anyone who's a member of the tea party in the sam

        • Seems that large segments of the population there voted for the madness in this case

          It's impossible to vote for a coalition when you have a single-vote, first-past-the-post constituency based system.

          with that they also voted for the madness of their local councils to do crazy shit.

          ... such as?

          if you support a euroseptic party

          Germs make thing septic, so I suppose that's caused by Germans? Well in fairness I suppose they started it.

          You have no idea what you're talking about. You couldn't point to the UK on

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Funny, I live in a country that uses "first past the post" and we seem to have it figured out just fine here. It's called Canada.

            Madness of local councils? Oh you mean like the automated "do not trespass on public property" systems that went up in a few areas until there was a public backlash.

            Oddly I have a fine idea of what I'm talking about, don't let your ignorance be your defining moment. I'm sure you also think that the oil sands in Alberta are nothing but a barren wasteland covered with the corpses

            • I live in a country that uses "first past the post" and we seem to have it figured out just fine here. It's called Canada.

              You've figured out how to vote for a coalition? Please explain how you do that, when a coalition consists of at least two parties and you have one vote.

    • by morgauxo (974071)

      I'm not from there but I supposed something had to inspire him to write it.....

    • The real problem is that without Snowden nobody would have known / suspected the slightest spying scandal.
  • That is so fucked up.

  • by the_scoots (1595597) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:50PM (#46360601)
    I find it hard to believe anything the big tech companies say after years of favors from the government.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:04PM (#46360801) Journal

      I find it hard to believe anything the big tech companies say after years of favors from the government.

      "We are, um, shocked and outraged by these revelations, and wish to assure our customers that, honestly, we are a bunch of incompetent second-stringers, so we probably can't do too much our current level of security. Also, even if we could, we have a long and ignoble track record of being a bootlicking toadies who give our best customer service with the PRC is hunting down dissidents for Labor Camp Adventure Time, we're actually pretty good at that. So, yeah, try to think of us as 'Google': By AOL, it's give us a nostalgic tinge.

      Thank you.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      I'm willing to believe that Yahoo had no idea about this. GCHQ hack anything they want access to, they don't ask. Yahoo would never have allowed it unless coerced in a way that there is no basis for in UK law (we don't have National Security Letters). I imagine the number of people using their video chat service has massively decreased since this story came to light, and they would have realised there was a risk of that happening.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If so, did any Americans assist a foreign state in spying on Americans? Are there two witnesses to this?

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    Espionage is an act of war.

    • by noh8rz10 (2716597) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:00PM (#46360743)

      NSA brought gchq in on. This because the y couldn't do it themselves (5th amendment etc.). So they have gchq do the dirty work and then gchq shares the intelligence. Welcome to the new USA.

      • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:13PM (#46360909)

        Look up Echelon.

        The USA, the UK and Australia were all legally prevented from domestic spying.

        So they agreed to spy on each others citizens and share the results, in 1948. It has never stopped.

        The original AT&T supplied call metadata to the government back when 'who knows who' was the worlds largest database.

      • by MrL0G1C (867445)

        NSA brought gchq in on. This because the y couldn't do it themselves (5th amendment etc.). So they have gchq do the dirty work and then gchq shares the intelligence. Welcome to the new USA.

        That would be ECHELON [wikipedia.org] you are referring to. Except you obviously missed that news that's been coming out for the last year about NSA spying on Amercicans regardless. What do you think NSA are storing in their $1,500,000,000 data centre, how many Terabytes does $1.5 billion buy?

      • by Tharkkun (2605613)

        NSA brought gchq in on. This because the y couldn't do it themselves (5th amendment etc.). So they have gchq do the dirty work and then gchq shares the intelligence. Welcome to the new USA.

        The GCHQ has been violating personal freedoms far longer than the NSA. It's just accepted on your half of the pond.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:57PM (#46360695)

    "Forget the $16 billion romance between Facebook and WhatsApp. There's a new messaging tool worth watching [dailydot.com].

    Tor [torproject.org], the team behind the world's leading online anonymity service, is developing a new anonymous instant messenger client, according to documents [torproject.org] produced at the Tor 2014 Winter Developers Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland."

    • by fermion (181285)
      According to the article, the problem is that a significant amount of the traffic is genitalia,ad the officers are just spending all day having to look at these, and general porn shoots, and therefore are not able to get to actionable material. As such they are just trying to filter out the couples engaged in phone sex or real sex.

      Therefore, the best way to keep you conspiracy secret is simply have discussion while you are engaged in sex, or make sure that all participants are at least naked the camera pr

  • It does not get any more creepy and perverted than that...

  • Aaaaaand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oodaloop (1229816) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:06PM (#46360825)
    That's why I have my webcams taped over when not in use. Who's crazy now??1!?
  • I vaguely remember a highschool principal who used web cams on laptops he gave out to students. Whatever happened to him anyway?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Robbins v. Lower Merion School District [wikipedia.org]

      The FBI investigated, there was a U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, but in the end the school district spent some money.

      In October 2010, the school district agreed to pay $610,000 to settle the Robbins and Hasan lawsuits against it. The settlement must be approved by Judge DuBois, who could also make his injunction barring the district from secretly tracking students permanent. The settlement also includes $175,000 that will be placed in a trust for Robbins a

  • WebRTC Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by PineHall (206441) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:33PM (#46361109)
    WebRTC [webrtc.org] seems to be the best way now to communicate and avoid all the spying. It is supported by Firefox, Chrome, and Opera browsers. It does audio, video, text and file transfers. The media streams are all encrypted and once connected the media streams from browser to browser with no middle man/web site.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Thank you, I was hoping the replies would be a resource for identifying some good point-to-point videoconferencing options.

      Are there any cross-platform solutions that work well and let you connect by just putting in a destination IP address? (The Internet is so overrun with logins and man-in-the-middles now).

      • by richtopia (924742)
        Not to steal the OP's thunder, but I use Jitsi for multi-platform video chat. jitsi.org
      • by PineHall (206441)
        I am just looking into WebRTC now so I don't know much but I think it should be possible. Right now I am looking at Muaz Khan's library RTCMultiConnection.js [rtcmulticonnection.org] and maybe you could do it with that.
  • Where to start? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Trogre (513942) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @02:57PM (#46361359) Homepage

    Okay people, start listing your favourite video chat applications that support SIP and TLS, and why you use them.

    Go!

    • by Sique (173459)
      There is no point in using SIP over TLS, if the endpoints negotiate an RTP connect.
  • Omegle does the exact same thing but solely for moderation purposes (they claim). They take a screenshot every few minutes of every user and then anyone caught being a perv is forced to moderate like 500 of these random screenshots to get their IP address unbanned. Those people catch maybe 5 more people who are all forced to moderate 500 more and tada, free 100% moderation without paying staff.

    And nobody has complained about it yet.
  • by redelm (54142) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @03:19PM (#46361595) Homepage

    Call me naive, but isn't it the job of the US Federal Government to protect the US citizens and property against incursion and spying by foreign powers? We cannot know what they will do with their intercepts.

    PRISM and similar "you spy on mine and I'll spy on yourn" programs smell like conspiracy to violate the US Consititution, if not out-and-out treason. That those programs continue can only be attributed to institutionalized endemic corruption.

  • So you need a dataset for your "automated facial recognition" experiments. Do you:

    A) Go to YouTube and collect videos from the millions of talking heads freely available for the taking.

    or B) Illegally hack into the private communications of others for the sake of your "experiment".

    I smell more than a little BS coming from Minitrue here.

    • by PPH (736903)

      I don't know about facial recognition. But I'll bet they have a pretty good algorithm developed for solving the "M girls in N cups" polynomial.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      You would have the ip, isp details and a 'real' persons face, voice over time. Lots of national databases for car, school, passports, work ID, with images at the UK and US level too going back many years.
      Add in web 2.0 a few years later and it would have been a few images (frames) sorted by machine and the unique maths: voice print and your face.
      Everything would have been bulk saved per ip when collected, sorted and compressed in near real time until a good image and voice match can be kept.
      The final fi
  • With every new NSA/GCHQ revelation, I am finding it increasingly difficult to tell the difference between these agencies, and an outright criminal internet hacker trolling group.

    Devices and sites are being broken into en-masse, security systems at companies foreign and domestic are being compromised, social engineering is being used to torpedo national standards and progress, internet forums are being saturated with disruptive trolls, people are being targeted/retaliated/gaslighted in their jobs and homes,

  • .... GCHQ budget for mental health treatment increased for analysts involved in the webcam intercept project.

    I'll bet. "Oh God!!! My eyes!!!" was overheard more than once in that division.

  • And nothing of interest was found.

  • and guess what they found out:

    http://www.heise.de/newsticker... [heise.de]

    according to TheH they had "problems with too much nudity" (Article in German)

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday February 27, 2014 @04:25PM (#46362273)

    Yahoo has millions of users?

    Who would have thought.

  • They see your naked bodies through the walls all the time, because your clothes only shield your eyes from seeing each other in the buff. Modern satellites and radar systems and camera systems can see through clothes and walls, and they can watch you even when you're fucking in your bedrooms with no electronics present in the room.

    Signals Intelligence is everywhere. We have 32 + satellites. Phased array antenna systems that let us image through the earth and around mountains, through the ionosphere. We have

  • This even made the TV news.
    One might think the news outlets are getting aware.... .... or maybe not....

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